I have lots to report, but first up I wanted to let you know that I am attempting to memorise a textbook. My 13-year-old son is learning Spanish in high school, and for various reasons that I will explore in another post, I think that the way his studies have been arranged, he is almost guaranteed to have the typical secondary high school language experience of at a least a year of study, followed by failure to be able to communicate, and the conclusion that learning a language is just too hard.
So, together we are studying, with the assistance of Anki, Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish. We have been going through it for five weeks now and are almost at the end of Chapter 7. There are 45 chapters in all, so we should well and truly finish it by the end of the school year here in the southern hemisphere.
I am doing this because he is interested in mythology, history, religions, art and science, and I can easily envisage him having to learn another language in the future in order to further his career. When that time comes, I want him to believe that he is capable of learning another language. And the best way I can think of doing that is to teach him an effective way of learning another language now.
I will report on our progress as we make our way through the course.
Since my last post, inspired by Nick in Denmark and a colleague of mine who is on a 155-day Duolingo streak and is acing her Spanish class as a result, I have tried to establish what Duolingo calls a streak – that is, I have tried to study my Anki flash cards every single day.
This is a bit of a change for me. But I have to say that it works. At the moment I’m on a 73-day steak. I’m learning 15 new phrases each day, as well as revising the phrases that I have already learnt.
It works out at about 150 cards per day, and I’m consistently getting 90% of the answers right. When I was trying to average 70 new words per week, and not studying on weekends, I was averaging about 80%. Last year, when I tried learning 100 new words at a time, I had a 60% success rate.
It’s more fun when you’re getting most of the answers right, and by taking it one day at a time, I don’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task.
Furthermore, in the last 10 weeks I’ve learnt more vocabulary than I did last year. I’ve finished memorising my Chinese phrasebook (more about that in another post), and have moved on to the FSI Standard Chinese course – I’ve almost completed four units.
The problem with learning a lot of words or phrases quickly with Anki is that the number of cards to review also adds up very quickly, and before you know it you have to revise two or three hundred cards per day, with occasional spikes of five hundred cards in one day. I call this problem The Wrath of Anki, and I’ve posted about it before here and here.
In his book Fast, Easy Way to Learn a Language Bill Handley states that in his opinion it is more effective to learn lots of words quickly and poorly rather a small amount of words slowly but surely.
I thought I’d try the Quickly and Poorly method with Chinese. So I’d learn 100 new phrases in one session, then revise and revise until I had the number of cards I had to review down to a manageable level, then learn 100 more. Continue reading →
Things have been pretty hectic in the last month or so, and I didn’t review my Anki decks every day. In fact I had two long runs, five days and then seven consecutive days without reviewing my Chinese deck. Continue reading →